Flying Doctors Take Health Care To the Skies

(L-R) Chairman, Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria, Dr. Okon Akiba; President, Institute of Safety professionals of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Iluodiuba; and Medical and Corporate Services Manager, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Olutomiwa Ogunbona, during the launch of the Emergency Transport Unit at Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos, on 14th May, 2015.
(L-R) Chairman, Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria, Dr. Okon Akiba; President, Institute of Safety professionals of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Iluodiuba; and Medical and Corporate Services Manager, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Olutomiwa Ogunbona, during the launch of the Emergency Transport Unit at Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos, on 14th May, 2015.

A female entrepreneur with an eye for opportunity, Dr. Ola Orekunrin recently launched the Flying Doctors Emergency Transport Unit (ETU) in Nigeria in partnership with Arik Air. This is the first emergency air ambulance service in West Africa, that is, transporting victims of medical emergencies round the globe.

The event which took place at Oriental Hotels, Lekki, Lagos, on 14th May 2015 had in attendance government officials and other dignatories from far and wide to grace the occasion to its fullest.

The female pioneer, Ola Orekunrin, was born in London, grew up in the south east of England; at 21, she had graduated from the University of  New York as a qualified doctor after which she moved to Japan to conduct a research on regenerative medicine.

Few years back, Ola’s younger sister fell seriously ill while traveling out of Nigeria, the 12-year-old girl, who had  gone to the West African country on holiday with relatives, needed urgent care but the nearest hospital couldn’t deal with her condition, “There was a situation in Nigeria where there were only two or three very good hospitals and they were sometimes a two, three, four-day journey away from the places where incidents happened,” says Ola.

Ola and her family immediately began looking for an air ambulance service to rapidly transport the girl to a more suitable healthcare facility. They searched all across West Africa but were stunned to find out there was none in the whole region.

The nearest at that point in time was in South Africa which was a 12 hour journey from where they were at that point and as they were about to depart, she  lost her sister.

According to her, it was really a challenging moment for her and the family. “It was really a devastating time for me and I started thinking about whether I should be in England talking about healthcare in Africa, or whether to be in Africa dealing with healthcare and trying to do something about it,” she narrated.

She did the latter, motivated by the tragic death of her sister; leaving behind a fat paying job in the UK to take to the Nigerian skies and address the issue of emergency health care in Africa’s most populated country.

Currently in its third year, the Lagos-based company has so far airlifted about 500 patients, using a fleet of planes and helicopters to rapidly move injured workers and critically ill people with high level of care from remote areas to hospitals.

Ola Orekunrin also revealed that the creation of the Emergency transport Unit (ETU) is the Flying Doctors protest against injustice. The injustice of a baby with heart disease dying because the surgeon in Abuja cannot be reached to perform the surgical operation; the injustice of a patient with trauma in Sokoto not been able to get to Lagos for the appropriate medical treatment; and injustice of patients not been able to get to the right surgeon at the appropriate time which is why the ETU has come to save lives by moving these patients and providing quality health care.

Speaking with the Medical and Corporate Services Manager of Flying Doctors Nigeria (FDN) Dr. Olutomiwa Ogunbona revealed that the Emergency Transport Unit (ETU) is an initiative created to evacuate patient from one remote area to another making it affordable for a common man on the street of Lagos.

In the same vein, some individuals who in one way or the other supported the innovations of Dr. Ola where awarded for their immense contribution to the success of the Emergency Transport Unit among whom are South African Consulate General, Mabasa Stephen.